The Eleven Commandments of Good Teaching 2d edition by Vickie Gill


NonfictionThe Eleven Commandments of Good Teaching 2d edition by Vickie GillReview by Molly

Foreword -Vanderbilt Professor Emeritus, James R. Lent, sets the tone for the book with his opening statement, ‘there is something different about this book:  It is useful, really useful.

Gill tells the reader that she has been teaching, in 2001 when this book was copyrighted, for the better part of 2 decades during which time she has spent a good bit of time defending the profession and giving advice to help struggling teachers succeed which has led to her setting down her thought in a book meant to provide tools and courage to allow teachers to follow their best instincts about what to do in the classroom.

Vickie Gill’s The Eleven Commandments of Good Teaching 2d edition, Creating Classrooms Where Teachers Can Teach and Students Can Learn features a Table of Contents for easy perusal of various topics Writer Gill showcases as necessary for setting the tone of a classroom.

Gill’s belief that teacher’s teach people not subjects, are among an elite group of people who can truly change the world, and are a closely watched role model who communicates more by what they do than by what they say; is summed up by her first chapter title “Thou Shalt Have a Calling to Teach”.

Gill’s notion that “Thou Shalt Demonstrate and Project the Joy of Learning” came about in large part because it appears that many people who do not teach seem to have the impression that teaching is a boring, joyless profession.  She reminds us as teachers that we need to take time to remember what drew us to teaching including remembering the kinds of things done by our own favorite teachers.

Characteristics of educated persons in writer Gill’s opinion include educated people can find out what they need to know, they share a common body of knowledge with other educated people that aids them in finding out what they need to know and they are curious; in short,  educated people are lifelong learners. When deciding what to teach  Thou Shalt Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” educated persons is the prize.

“Thou Shalt Be Organized and Accountable” Gill notes that it is incumbent upon each teacher to document what is taught in his/her classroom. The notion that every teacher and every classroom is a mirror of all others is not a very functional idea.  Every class is different because needs of each student must be considered along with state and local requirements concerning what must, should, will be taught in the classroom.

Writing lesson plans, using the plans, and maintaining records showing the progress of each student is easier to accomplish when the teacher is organized, accountability is easier to establish when documentation is kept showing what was taught and what learners produced as a result of the teaching.

 Gill notes  “Thou Shalt Ask and Ye May Receive” was one of the first things I was taught in my first teacher preparation, college class.  If you need something for your classroom ask, and be prepared to explain how you will use whatever it is, and why you hope to use the whatever.

“Thou Shalt Be Fair and Prepared” and “Thou Shalt Use Some Common Sense” seem to be self-explanatory and to be expected.  Preparation is the basis of successful teaching whether the teacher is using a commercial lesson plan book, used by many teachers across the nation, in which he/she writes hourly subject notes concerning the lesson to be taught day by day. 

Fairness is expected by teachers and students alike.  Common sense or the lack thereof assure whether success or failure will be the outcome for every teacher.  Gill points out that ‘children like to know there is someone in charge, someone who has their best interests at heart.’   No matter how they may chafe at rules; children do know that they are not skilled or old enough to make what may be life changing decisions.

For peace of mind teachers do well to remember “Thou Shalt Be Open-Minded and Flexible” one of the most important sentences I find in this chapter reads ‘Schools are filled with all types of personalities and styles.  What works well in one classroom may not in the one across the hall.  Find your style and, so long as students are learning you are happy with the style and progress; implement it.  The chapter closes with another sentence worth remembering; ‘because we, teachers, work with people, we have to be ready to embrace the unexpected and make it work.’

“Thou Shalt Not Work in Fear” help new teachers and seasoned ones too remember that while our successes give us more confidence and raise our standing in the eyes of fellow teachers; it is the failures that are the best teachers for refining our technique.

Because students come to the classroom with varying degrees of want to and can do it is important for teachers to remember “Thou Shalt Raise Your Expectations”Gill points out that people fall pretty much into 3 types, the ones who make things happen, those who watch things happening, and those who ask what happened.  Students tend to perform up to reasonable standards, or down to standards set lower than they need.

“Thou Shalt Keep Things in Perspective” Gill helps new and seasoned teachers remember that we are the masters of our own destiny in large part.  Things  happen in life, we can change some and some we cannot.  Fix what we can, and move forward.

My well used copy of The Eleven Commandments of Good Teaching 2d edition, Creating Classrooms Where Teachers Can Teach and Students Can Learn attests to the fact that I too found, as did Professor Lent in the Foreward, ‘there is something different about this book:  It is useful, really useful.

While my career of nearly 4 decades was spent in K-1 and Writer Gill primarily taught high school English; her easily read book is filled with down to earth suggestions for setting up a classroom promoting a learning environment, the need for planning and proposals regarding how to go about devising lessons.   Whatever the grade level, age of students or subject matter planning, learning environment and lessons are something all teachers do.

I read The Eleven Commandments of Good Teaching 2d edition, Creating Classrooms Where Teachers Can Teach and Students Can Learn  cover to cover more than once during my almost 40 years, kept the book in my rolling bag taken to the classroom each day and read individual chapters again, and again as I felt I needed a nudge in one direction or another.

I come from a family of teachers, grandfather taught, my two sisters taught, their husbands were also teachers.  I particularly enjoyed reading Gill’s personal teaching moments, while hers were different than mine because our students were widely apart in age, all teachers have stories of classroom happenings and enjoy remembering their own and hearing those of fellow teachers whatever their classroom makeup.

Excellent gift for a new teacher, student teacher, any teacher.

Interesting, useful, educational read, happy to recommend.

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